American or Black Scoter - Melanitta americana

On Friday 8 October 2021 Arno ten Hoeve was leading a bird photography workshop at sea north of Schiermonnikoog Fr. Main goal was to photograph seabirds and the circumstances were ideal: flat see, sunshine, lots of birds. When checking groups of Common Scoters Melanitta nigra with finding a Surf Scoter M. perscipillata in mind, at 12:05 hours he suddenly saw a male scoter with a yellow bulb on its bill. Within a nanosecond he knew he had found an American or Black Scoter M. americana! This is a very rare bird in the Netherlands with only three accepted records so far. The bird flew closer to the shore of Schiermonnikoog, so he warned birders on the mainland.
At 13:35 Patrick Snoeken found the bird close at the shore of the Noorderstrand, Schiermonnikoog Fr feeding in a flock of Common Scoters. There were already a few dozen birders on the island, so they could connect quickly with the bird. Several boats were chartered from the mainland and till darknes felt, the bird could be observed quite well from a distance of c 400 meters by c 100 birders. Next day c 30 birders were present from 7:45, but a thick fog made it impossible to look for the bird. Around 10:35 the fog thinned a little bit and a group of c 25 Common Scoters became visible. At 10:39 it became clear the bird was amongst them! It was quite difficult to observe the bird properly as it was diving a lot and there were more waves than the day before. The fog thickened and thinned in a steady rythm and at around 11:45 the sun came through and the fog disappeared.
I was not present on 8 October as fellow birder Nick van der Ham and I went to the Two-barred Greenish Warbler Phylloscopus plumbeitarsus at the Maasvlakte, Rotterdam ZH. We should have turned immediately when Patrick Snoeken refound the bird, but we thought we were too far away from Lauwersoog to catch a boat. We underestimated the improvisation skills of Dutch twitchers as at least three fast boats were chartered. About 50 birders made it in time in the evening of 8 October, so Nick and I were very nervous if the bird would make an appearance on 9 October. Happily we were among the firsts who found the bird at 10:39 after a more than three-hours wait in the cold fog, so our day was saved!

9 October 2021, Noorderstrand, Schiermonnikoog Fr; © Jan van der Laan.
Through the scope the bird was good to see, but through my 500 mm lens, it was difficult. I took c 100 random shots. This was the best!

9 October 2021, Noorderstrand, Schiermonnikoog Fr; © Jaap Denee.
Best pictures so far. Note the yellow bulb and compare with the two Common Scoters.

9 October 2021, Noorderstrand, Schiermonnikoog Fr; © Albert Molenaar.

9 October 2021, Noorderstrand, Schiermonnikoog Fr; © Albert Molenaar.

8 October 2021, Noorderstrand, Schiermonnikoog Fr; © Laurens Steijn/Birding Breaks.

8 October 2021, Noorderstrand, Schiermonnikoog Fr; © Folkert Jan Hoogstra.

It was accepted as the fourth record for the Netherlands. Previous records were 26-28 December 1954 at the Brielse Maas ZH (male seen and finally found dead), 2 November 1967 at De Cocksdorp, Texel NH (male found alive and taken into care, died next day) and 19 November 1977 in the Oostvoornse Meer, Oostvoorne ZH (male, alive bird).

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